Customer success managers and leaders: Do any of these statements sound familiar to you?
- “The customer was upset during our kick-off because we asked them the same questions that the sales team had asked them before close.”
- “I’m not sure what Services actually implemented for this customer.”
- “No one scheduled the kick-off meeting yet; I thought that Sales or Services was responsible for that.”
- “This customer isn’t a great fit for us. There’s not a lot that I can do to help them.”
If these sound familiar, you have an opportunity to improve the way that you work cross-functionally. You’re not alone; these are common problems for customer success teams, especially within fast-growing companies, in which organizational structures change frequently.
The good news is that Customer Success is uniquely positioned within a company to drive cross-functional coordination. We’re accountable for customer retention and up-sell, which gives us a mandate to advocate for cross-functional processes that support the customer’s well-being.
You’ll need 3 things to successfully work cross-functionally:
- People: Team members who design smart processes. At early stage companies, the leader of the CSM team can fill this role. As you scale, you’ll want to hire an operations manager.
- Process: Best practices for those processes. It’s important to adapt processes to reflect what’s unique about your market and product, but we all can certainly learn from what worked for other companies.
- Technology: A customer success solution like Gainsight to hold people accountable for executing those processes.
I’ll be publishing a series of blog posts on how we’ve designed cross-functional processes, to the customer’s benefit. This post will focus on Knowledge Transfer: a process for ensuring that the sales team relays the information they gather from the customer to your post-sales teams. The goal is to make sure that statement #1 above doesn’t become a refrain on your customer success team: “The customer was upset during our kick-off because we asked them the same questions that the sales team had asked them before close.”
We hired an exceptional team member, Barr Moses, to spearhead cross-functional initiatives between Customer Success, Sales, and Services. Barr designed a Knowledge Transfer process that covered the following areas:
1. Customer Type
At Gainsight, we have 3 models for customer engagement: Express, Custom, and New Use Cases. Express customers are the most typical: they’re eligible for our accelerated implementation process. Custom customers want an implementation process that’s catered to their unique needs. New Use Cases customers are looking to partner with us to craft what customer success processes and software should look like in their industry. It’s important for our Customer Success and Services teams to know which category each new customer falls into. We’ve trained the sales team on how to assign customers to the right category.
2. Use Case
These questions help us make sure that we meet the customer’s definition of success in post-sales:
- What are the customers’ business objectives?
- Which Gainsight features are they most interested in?
- Which features are they not at all interested in?
- What are any challenges we may face in making this customer successful?
In this section, we also ask about the customer’s Customer Success engagement model, given that this affects how they’ll use our software. If you’re a marketing automation company, you might ask questions about your customer’s marketing strategy.
3. Implementation Process
This section benefits our Services team.
- What type of implementation package did the customer buy?
- What’s the timing of implementation?
- What CRM, Support, Survey, BI, Financial, Marketing Automation, and other systems do they use?
We work with several different types of people at our customers:
- Executive Decision-Maker: The person who determines whether to renew Gainsight.
- Adoption Champion: The person who has the motivation to use Gainsight for their team.
- Gainsight Administrator: The person who configures rules and dashboards within Gainsight.
It’s important for Sales to identify these people immediately after contract signature, so that we can cater our 1:many programs to their different roles, and so that our Customer Success and Services teams know who to reach out to for different parts of our onboarding process.
We also want to know, does Gainsight have any pre-existing relationships with this customer (e.g. a common board member)?
We included these questions as required fields in a section of the Salesforce.com Opportunity page, so that the account executive fills them out before s/he moves the deal to Closed/Won phase. The fields then populate into Gainsight’s Customer360 page. That way, we have the information at our fingertips right after the contract is signed.
If the account executive answers some of the questions in a particular way, we know that the customer will be higher-risk to begin with. These answers trigger a lower initial health score for the customer within Gainsight. I’ll return to the subject of qualification criteria in a later blog post, since it’s critical to sell to the right customers.
Our sales team is fully on board with implementing this Knowledge Transfer process. It’s more convenient for them to fill out this form than answer our one-off questions after close. In addition, we structured the fields in Salesforce.com essentially as a 5-7 minute survey, with drop-down menus and multi-select options, so that the questions are easy to answer.Thanks to our collaboration with the sales team, we’re looking forward to getting our new Q1 customers off to a great start in May.
If you have questions about how to set up your own Knowledge Transfer process, contact your Gainsight CSM or me at firstname.lastname@example.org.